Thursday, December 20, 2007

Joyeux Noël

We're off to Paris tomorrow, and we won't be back in Basel until Christmas Day.

Until then...

Joyeux Noël to all, and to all, a good night!

I'm Dreaming...

...of an ORANGE Christmas.

Last year, I made the executive decision to throw out all our Christmas lights. They had been through seven Christmases, and I decided that we were beginning to press our luck. Believe me, the last thing I (or ESPECIALLY Mrs. TBF) would want would be for a strand of lights to go out on the tree after the thing was covered in a tangle of lights and ornaments. I decided to eliminate the potential of anything triggering one of my infamous yuletide cussfests (so far, none this year), so I threw out the lights - ALL of 'em.

Zip ahead to this year...

It was when I was unpacking all our decorations that I noticed that we no longer had lights for the tree. An ember of memory from last year was still glowing somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain, and I realized that I was going to have to go out and buy new lights.

You know what? Christmas lights are expensive in Switzerland. A fifty meter (a little over 150') strand cost about CHF 100. That's equivalent to about 90 dollars in the U.S. at today's exchange rate. But don't blink, the way the dollar is going, it'll probably be equal to about $120 by the time the holidays are over!

The main issue, however, wasn't the money. NO! The big question was what kind of lights to buy.

Mrs. TBF grew up with all white lights on her Christmas trees...

I grew up with lights of mixed colors...

Mrs. TBF told me to get whatever I wanted...

I...bought...ORANGE LIGHTS!!!

Orange just happens to be my favorite color.

I like!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Something In Common...

Q: What do Leonid Brezhnev and Mrs. TBF have in common?

A: They were both born on December 19th.

What did I get the woman who wants for nothing? Nothing, of course! However, all is not lost because we will be having a rare weekday lunch together. I'm actually going to take the tram all the way to her office so that we can ride the tram together back to the restaurant. Isn't extra time together one of the best gifts you can share with somebody you love?

Geez, that's a lot of pressure. I'd better go shower and shave!

Riding the tram all the way to Mrs. TBF's office and back into town?



Maybe next year I'll just buy her a new watch or something.


Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep...

I'm not really sure why, but I woke up at 4:30 this morning (after going to bed at 12:15 a.m.), and I felt completely rested. I tried staying in bed until 5:30 to see if I'd fall back to sleep, but nothing doing. Maybe I'm just excited about our upcoming trip to Paris. Who knows?

In complete contrast to this morning, I had the opposite problem last Saturday night/Sunday morning - I couldn't stay awake...

Last weekend was a rare "just the three of us" weekend and Mrs. TBF said she'd cook whatever I wanted for dinner. My Saturday request was Japanese. More specifically, sushi and sukiyaki.

I'm not really sure what she put in that sukiyaki, but almost immediately after dinner (about 9:45), I hauled my bloated belly over to the sofa where I found myself getting verrrrrrry sleepy. I think it was something like 10 p.m. when Mrs. TBF gave up trying to talk to me and just went into our TV room where she watched TV until about midnight. At midnight, she woke me up to tell me that she was going to bed.

I somehow managed to stumble to the bathroom, pee, brush my teeth, go through my entire skincare regimen, and plop in the little thingamajiggy that keeps me from clenching my teeth. At least I think I did all those things - my memory is kind of hazy. I also managed to put moisturizer on my hands AND put on my sleeping gloves. Then, I slept until 10 a.m. That's right...a total of TWELVE HOURS OF SLEEP!!!

Oh, and YES...I wear gloves when I sleep so that my hands are nice and soft when I wake up. The gloves are pink and have little ruffles on the wrists. What about it?

The next night, it was King's turn to have sleep issues...

On Sunday evening, we used (for the first time) a cookbook that was a gift from the Ex-Expatters and made a delicious oxtail and tongue stew. Yeah, the beef tongue looks kind of disgusting, but believe me, it's tastes REALLY good. When we sat down to eat, King would not leave us alone, so I gave him a piece of oxtail and a piece of tongue. It turned out that he liked it so much that he just kept begging for more.

I guess I fed him too much tongue.

Let's just say that King had litter box issues on Sunday night. He'd use his box and then run around the apartment howling. Then, he'd beat up on one of his toys for awhile, carry it around, and howl some more. This went on all night. I'm not kidding, the beast must have woken us up ten times.

So, my sleep recap for those of you keeping score at home:

Saturday night - abnormal

Sunday night - abnormal

Monday night - normal

Tuesday night - abnormal

I've been noticing lately that I often wake up between 4 and 5 a.m., although I normally fall back to sleep after about ten minutes.

Is this a sign of old age?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Strapping On The Weekend Feed Bag!

A quick trip to the grocery store in France this morning resulted in a shopping bag containing (among other things) some oysters, a couple of veal kidneys, and a pig's foot (trotter...or, our British friends call it).

Escargots and bone marrows will soon be coming out of the freezer.

Sushi-grade fish, beef tongue, and an ox tail are currently on the shopping list, and they'll be purchased tomorrow morning.

It's going to be a GREAT eatin' weekend!

Nice To Hear You! Nice To Meat You!

I've begun listening online, once again, to my favorite Chicago radio personality of all-time: Steve Dahl. I think I began listening to him in 1978.

Recently, he switched to a new radio station, AND he switched to the 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. (Chicago time) time slot. What that means is that I can now listen to him LIVE here in Switzerland from 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday - Friday.

Yesterday, right before the end of his show, I heard him read a commercial for Allen Brothers Steaks. Of course, I think that the gift of meat is one of the best gifts there is, so I just had to go to their website to check it out.


Now that I'm thinking about the gift of meat...

Within our immediate families, we always buy gifts for each other on the 5-year birthdays and anniversaries. Just in case certain relatives are still trying to decide what to buy me for my 45th birthday that took place just over three months ago (yes, I'm sure you didn't forget!), nothing would make me happier than a gift of meat that could be left in your freezer for us all to enjoy on one of my future trips to Chicago. Specifically, the bone-in ribeyes and dry-aged porterhouse steaks, AVAILABLE AT, all look good!

Hint, hint...wink, wink!!!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Actually, He Doesn't Know The Difference...

I had to laugh after lugging home and unloading King's weekly haul of grub. On the bag from Qualipet is an advertisement for organic cat food. Under the picture it states that "...cats know the difference".

Can you believe it? ORGANIC FOOD...FOR A CAT???? I'm officially filing this one in the now-I've-seen-almost-everything file.

Seeing that King spent two minutes "grooming" his butt in front of us last night while we were trying to watch TV (very distracting!), I highly doubt that he is the slightest bit worried about whether his food is organic or not.

Our Sunsets Are Safe!

Earlier this year, a small, old apartment building was torn down right by our apartment building. Then, a couple of cranes (the Swiss "national bird") appeared right in line with where the sun sets for a good part of the year.

Seeing that there are a couple of tall apartment buildings sandwiching the construction site, I began to become concerned that another tall building was going to be built, thus blocking the only remaining view of sunsets from our balcony.

This morning, I walked up right next to the construction site for a closer look, and I'm happy to report that the building has been capped and will go no higher.

We will be enjoying many beautiful sunsets from the comfort of our balcony (and rooftop) for the weeks, months, and years (?) to come. Now, I just have to go out an buy a chainsaw...


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pretty In Pink?

The blogosphere will be happy to know that our whirlpool - that we never use because it emits a nasty smell when you turn it on - has been repaired. Correct that: we use the tub, but we never turn on the jets.

Interesting stuff, huh? Read on, unless you have something better (highly likely) to do.

I received a call totally out of the blue last Friday at 5:15 p.m. from some guy speaking Swiss-German. I told him I couldn't really understand him too well, but I managed to pick out the word's Duscholux (the brand name of our whirlpool), the name of the company that owns/manages our apartment building, service, and termin (appointment). Before I knew it, I had an appointment to have our whirlpool repaired (even though I hadn't requested a repair) on Tuesday at 1:00 p.m.

Of course, I ended up having to go through this long, drawn-out ordeal yesterday when I called the management company's office to make sure that they had actually requested the repair and that I wasn't just going to be letting some psycho off the street into the apartment. After waiting several hours for the office to "investigate" I called back and found out that it was, indeed, an authorized repair. It turns out that there have been some problems with the whirlpools in the apartments that have them, and the landlord has decided to have them all looked at whether the tenants have complained or not.

Let's zip ahead to this afternoon at precisely the stroke of 1 p.m. when my door buzzer rang. I heard the word Duscholux over the intercom, and a bunch of other Swiss-German words, so I figured that it had to be the repair dude. Well, it was either him or a Jehovah's Witness who wanted to use our bathtub. I went downstairs, saw a guy in the front lobby wearing a uniform and carrying a toolbox, let him in, and brought him upstairs in the elevator.

About an hour later, I had a new button on the edge of the tub, detailed verbal instructions (that I didn't really understand) explaining how our new button works and what it's supposed to do, and a bunch of dust and repair residue that had to be vacuumed up. The repairman told me that the whirlpool was as good as new and that I should give it a try (I had told him that we never use it).

Now...if only he could do something about the hideous pink tile!

Another Typical Weekend...

...of shopping, cooking, eating, and visiting with friends.


I wanted to buy a dress shirt, so we took the bus into Basel on Saturday morning to do a little shopping. We walked into a store, and we came out of the store a little while later with my dress shirt AND...a winter coat for Mrs. TBF.

How the heck did that happen?

Mrs. TBF tried on the coat a couple of weeks back, but she thought it was too expensive. Just when I was about to pay for my shirt, Mrs. TBF showed up at the counter with the coat and MADE AN OFFER!!! I couldn't beleive it!!! She was actually negotiating on price with a store manager in Switzerland. And you know what? The guy dropped the price! SIGNIFICANTLY!!! Then our friend Di, whom we met at the shop, said the words that sealed the purchase.

"...that coat is TIMELESS!"

With those words (and the "new" price) the deal was sealed. Mrs. TBF had her new coat that she said she'll " able to wear until I'm 100 years old". Does that mean that she'll never have to buy another winter coat again? I'm not holding out hope for that.


Dave and Jane came over for dinner on Saturday evening. It was kind of a birthday dinner for Dave because we never bought him a birthday gift back in September. We just couldn't come up with any good ideas, so we just decided to make him a nice dinner; oyster casserole on toast points for a pre-dinner snack, stuffed eggs and beet ravioli for a starter, mussel soup for the soup course, and cote de boeuf (rib steak) with mushrooms and mashed potatoes on the side for the main course. As if that wasn't heavy enough, we had Ben and Jerry's ice cream for dessert. Oink!


We went up to the Alsace (more specifically, Riquewihr) with John and Rammy. The main reason was to go enjoy lunch at a restaurant that J & R have been to before, but we got there a little early and walked around the insanely crowded Christmas market to kill some time before our reservation.

John and I were enjoying a small sandwich and a beer, ummmm...twenty minutes before eating lunch, when John suddenly said: "Hey...that's your friend from America walking over there! I forgot his name, know...the one who ate at our house earlier this year!" I think I accused John of being drunk on one sip of his tiny beer, but then I realized he was right.

Tom and Sylvia - from Connecticut - were walking not ten yards away from us. Of course, I had to sneak up behind them and give them grief for having come all the way to Europe without calling us. But...I'll give 'em a break this time because Tom was here on business and hardly had any free time. I don't blame him for wanting to spend time just with Sylvia. But...

What are the odds of just running into friends from overseas while walking through a crowded Christmas market in France? It reminds me of the time when we were in Rome, and walked out the front door of our hotel just as people we know from Basel were crossing right in front of us on the sidewalk. Or...the times we've run into people we know at various airports around Europe.


So, after saying goodbye to Tom and Sylvia, the four of us ended up having a very nice Menu Hiver for lunch at the restaurant. Afterwards, we shopped a little bit at the market (crazy looking Santa decoration and some smoked meat), stopped for a quick tasting at a winery, and then made our way back to Basel.

And if that wasn't enough eating for one weekend, I even ate a "snack" of leftovers on Sunday evening while watching football. Gain three pounds during the weekend, and lose it during the week.

...the story of my life!

Friday, December 07, 2007

I Want, I Want, I WANT...!

I found out last night that Rammy was going to be making the 45 minute drive to the Carrefour in Mulhouse (France) this morning so that she could buy some turkey giblets for her Christmas gravy, so I invited myself to come along for the ride in order to keep Rammy company, buy a few things myself, and...silently chuckle to myself while watching Rammy driving her little Audi TT with her seat pulled up all the way forward with her little body (all 4'11" of her) pressed against the steering wheel so that her feet can reach the peddles.

Oh...I know what you're saying: Those must be some damn good giblets if somebody is willing to drive 45 minutes in order to get 'em. And my response would be: NO!

The reason why Rammy is driving 45 minutes into France to buy turkey giblets for gravy is because after living here for seven years (Rammy - 14 years), we have yet to find any source for turkey giblets in Switzerland.

Yes, you can buy a whole turkey in Switzerland. However, they don't come with the giblets!

I've even asked for them when I've ordered a turkey at the butcher, and the butcher just tells me "Nein!". "But...I'll pay for them," I plead. "Nein!" I'm not sure what really happens to them all, but I'm kind of thinking that they all end up in France because they sure have a lot of them at Carrefour. Hearts, gizards, livers...whatever you need.

Along with the giblets, the Carrefour in Mulhouse also has a bunch of wild birds flying around the store. Yes, I'm talking about REAL, LIVE BIRDS. When you walk into the store, you hear them chirping. Then, you look up in the rafters and see them sitting there. Occasionally, one will just fly by you as if it's flying from one tree to another. Obviously, the Carrefour employees leave a window open at night or something because there are literally dozens, maybe hundreds, of these wild birds flying around the store.

Ummmmm....isn't this...oh, I don't know...some kind of health code violation? I mean, I saw bird shit on the floor!! Normally, animal crap doesn't bother me. I did, after all, always have to clean up after our dog and I do clean pounds and pounds of it out of King's litter box every week. But I have to say that bird shit by food that I'm going to consume kind of makes me...CRINGE! Am I being overly sensitive about this? Amazingly, Rammy, who's fairly picky about things, doesn't seem to be the slightest bit bothered by the birds.


To tell you the truth, it kind of freaks me out to the point of not wanting to shop there. there I did, because Rammy needed giblets and I went along as a passenger on the "Giblet Express".

What do we have to do to get some turkey giblets in this country, for god's sake?

And for that matter, Carrefour also has Doritos (we don't!) and Smoky Bacon, Jalapeño, and other assorted flavors of Pringles that we don't have here in Switzerland.

What's up with THAT?

The selection at the Swiss grocery stores has gotten much better in the time that we've lived here, and Rammy tells me that it's light years ahead of where things were when she moved here 14 years ago. However, there are still a lot of things that are available at Carrefour that we can't get here.

I want turkey giblets, Doritos, and Smoky Bacon/Jalapeño Pringles at my local Coop NOW!

...minus the bird shit, of course!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

You Didn't Think I'd Forget...

...did you?

Today, Finland celebrates 90 years of independence.


Raise your Lapin Kulta (or any other Finnish beer you happen to have handy) along with me for a toast. Let me hear ya, loud and clear...


NOTE: The reason why my head is turned at that weird angle is because I'm hiding a GIGANTIC pimple that erupted on the left side of my neck.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Prediction For 2008...

Of the CDs I purchased in 2007, the three I have listened to the most have been:

Wilco - Sky Blue Sky

Linkin Park - Minutes To Midnight

Rush - Snakes and Arrows

Plus, I still can't get that song out of my head.

With the new year fast approaching, I don't think I'm really going out on a limb here if I predict right now that the new Radiohead CD - In Rainbows - will be my our most listened to CD of 2008. Yeah...I know...I could have already downloaded it off of their website...thanks for the info, but I just feel that Radiohead are worthy of an actual CD purchase so I have something to look at while listening to the CD while lying on my bed in my fuzzy slippers.

In Rainbows comes out in January. In the meantime, their new video (Jigsaw Falling Into Place) will have to suffice. Helmet cams ROCK!!!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Fattening Up Fat Sal in Basel...

Fatten up Fat Sal became our mantra after Fat Sal announced to Mrs. TBF upon arriving at our apartment that he was on mission to put a little fat onto his nearly fat-free frame. The challenge was set...

I met Sal at the airport at around 9:30 p.m. on Friday evening, and we took a taxi home. After a leisurely martini, and a Sal-getting-to-know-King session, we all sat down to a late-night cheese fondue dinner. Not any cheese fondue dinner, but a ONE KILO (2.2 lbs.) of cheese fondue dinner. Unbelievably, "we" (mostly me)!!!! We continued talking and drinking wine into the night; finally making it to bed around 2:30 a.m.

On Saturday morning, we went into town to meet up with Canadian-Swiss and Orange-X. We took the bus, and Sal experienced Swiss precision first-hand when we had to switch buses at one point during the journey. Our bus stopped, we stepped out as the next bus was pulling behind the first bus, and we hopped on. Yes, Sal was amazed! We jumped off the second bus at Spalentor and wandered down the the streets of Basel toward Marktplatz. Of course, we first needed a little "fattening-up" snack (about 45 minutes before eating lunch), so we stopped for a sausage at the Eiche sausage stand.

After our snack, the three of us made our way down the "clean and safe" streets of Basel to Zum Braunen Mutz to meet up with C.S. and O.X., and to stuff Sal with a few hundred calories worth of rösti. After lunch, Mrs. TBF went back home to begin preparing Sal's next caloric intake, and the four remaining bloggers set off on a small walking tour of Basel.

We set off through Marktplatz, up the hill toward the Munster, and then took the ferry across the Rhein (pretty much the reverse of my standard walking tour). It was at this point that I felt that Sal was burning too many calories, so the four of us stopped in at Fischerstube for a beer. Well, at least Sal and I had beer. Of course, C.S. and O.X. had to be troublemakers by ordering a panaché and rum & Coke respectively. Who drinks panaché and rum & Coke at a microbrewery for god's sake? Jeez!

It was getting dark by this point, and it was time to head back to the apartment. By the time we arrived, Mrs. TBF was in the midst of a cooking frenzy, and Sal was feeling a bit tired from lack of sleep and extra calorie consumption. Sal relaxed for a bit, I did a quick vacuuming and recycled before the 8:00 p.m. curfew (Sal: "WHAT?!?!? 8:00 p.m. curfew?!?!??!?"), and then the guests began showing up.

C.S., O.X., Andy, Di, Rammy, John, and kids arrived around 7:00 p.m., and we all sat down to a nice Italian dinner that Mrs. TBF had prepared. We ate and drank, once again, until the early-morning hours; finally going to sleep sometime between 2:30 and 3:00 a.m.

The next morning, we got up around 11:00 a.m. Well, at least Mrs. TBF and I did. Sal got up at something like 7:00 a.m. (probably woken up by King's howling), and didn't go back to sleep. At around noon, Mrs. TBF made one last-ditch effort of pumping calories into Sal with omelettes and bacon.

So, let's see now...

Sal ate snacks, cheese fondue, sausage, rösti, Italian food, an omelette and bacon, drank wine, beer, and a martini. And...when he left? I think he had maybe...MAYBE...gained about one ounce!!!!

What will it take to fatten up Fat Sal?

We said our goodbyes to Fat "Euro" Sal on Sunday afternoon as he got onto the airport bus at the train station. The next time we see him, he'll be Fat "American" Sal. Let's see what happens when he returns to Chicago. I'm sure we'll be checking up on him there in the not-too-distant future for a B.M.I. check.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Winter Advice...

With all this blustery weather we've been having here in Basel for the past twenty-four hours, it appears that winter is upon us. I guess there's no better time than the present for a little winter tobogganing advice from Geddy Lee of Rush.